Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...

Season 1 Episode 1

Elton John

0
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Dec 03, 2008 on Sundance Channel
8.1
out of 10
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Episode Summary

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Elvis interviewed/conversed with Elton John for most of the show. They reminisced about great singers, piano players and performers they knew or played with. Elton talked a great deal about his idols and influences. The conversation was remarkably informative. Musical highlights included Elvis Costello opening the show with the Elton John tune Border Song, Elton at the piano demonstrating various piano techniques (Leon Russell, Laura Nyro, etc.), and the two of them performing a duet of a David Ackles song called Down River. In addition there were various clips of musicians they discussed, Elvis, his band and Elton jamming on Working In The Coal Mine, a song co-written by the great Allen Toussaint, who currently is a keyboard player in Elvis's band. The end titles have Elvis and his band performing Elton John's Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Strange, intriguing music-talk show has definite promise, but gets off to extra-bizarre start.

    7.0
    One thing I learned from watching this first airing of Spectacle is, Elton John really likes to hear himself talk, and he talks really fast! That said, if you are a super music geek who is fascinated by hearing anecdotes about the music industry laced liberally with unexplained references to a wide range of artists, labels, songs, and other music-industry specifics, then you will enjoy this episode. And if you can follow his rapid-fire musings, Elton John is a rather amusing fellow. The other main component of the show is musical vignettes by various artists, which are quite enjoyable. There are also musician-themed ads, which is something of a novelty, but then what do you expect from the Sundance Channel? And how many times do you see a talk show host wearing lime-green socks?moreless
Davey Faragher

Davey Faragher

Himself - Bass/Vocals

Recurring Role

Pete Thomas

Pete Thomas

Himself - Drums

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Song List

      Border Song (Written by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)
      Performed by Elvis Costello and band
      (James Burton, Allen Toussaint, Davey Faragher, Pete Thomas)

      Burn Down the Mission (Written by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)
      Performed by Elton John (Piano/Vocal)

      Working in the Coal Mine (Written by Allen Toussaint)
      Performed by Elton John (Piano/Vocal), Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal) and band
      (James Burton, Allen Toussaint, Davey Faragher, Pete Thomas)

      Down River (Written by David Ackles)
      Performed by Elton John (Piano/Vocal), Elvis Costello (Vocal) and band
      (James Burton, Allen Toussaint, Davey Faragher, Pete Thomas)

      Ballad of Well-Known Gun (Written by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)
      Performed by Elvis Costello and band
      (James Burton, Allen Toussaint, Davey Faragher, Pete Thomas)

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Elvis: I will say that, for those of you that don't remember it because you're too young, there was this incredibly rich period of music, from about 1968 to 1971, when the introspective singer-songwriters achieved equal importance with heavy rock. Composers and sometimes eccentric-sounding singers, such as Randy Newman and Laura Nyro, wrote hit tunes and had big successes.

    • Elton: The Beatles started everything off with writing their own songs and let's not forget how important that was in the history of popular music, because Elvis Presley always relied on songs written by other people. And in those days, songwriters weren't professional performers.

    • Elton: It's got to the point now where there are no real professional songwriters anymore. Well, there are, but it's not so important anymore. And, unfortunately, more people try and write their own songs and they're not so good at it.

    • Elton: (on Leon Russell) He started to write the most incredible songs and I went to see him in England and fell in love with the way he played the piano and the way he sang. And, I don't think … he didn't influence me at all vocally because no-one's got that kind of voice, he's got the most incredibly unorthodox voice. But certainly, piano-playing wise, I'd say he's my biggest hero. And he's, you know, because I toured with him, I mean, I have to tell everyone I did two tours with Leon Russell. We were both happening at the same time. He was happening, I was happening. He was top of the bill, I was second on the bill. And I was terrified of him, um, because he looked like this … he looked like Rasputin, kind of.

    • Elton: (on Leon Russell) He started to write the most incredible songs and I went to see him in England and fell in love with the way he played the piano and the way he sang. And, I don't think … he didn't influence me at all vocally because no-one's got that kind of voice, he's got the most incredibly unorthodox voice. But certainly, piano-playing wise, I'd say he's my biggest hero. And he's, you know, because I toured with him, I mean, I have to tell everyone I did two tours with Leon Russell. We were both happening at the same time. He was happening, I was happening. He was top of the bill, I was second on the bill. And I was terrified of him, um, because he looked like this … he looked like Rasputin, kind of.

    • Elton: (on Leon Russell) I remember once we were in Cleveland playing and staying in the same hotel and I had to go ask him what time sound check was … He opened the door and he was completely naked and I went "Oh, my God". Umm, and I didn't know where to look. Well, I did, but I didn't. (laughs)
      Elvis: That's not what you said before.
      Elton: No, not exactly.

    • Elton: (on Laura Nyro) I idolized her. She was the first person, songwriting-wise, that there were no rules - there were tempo changes. You know, that wasn't verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight. She didn't write in that kind of a way. And that put in my mind that you didn't have to write in that old template, you know, that everybody else did. She just carried on in her own kind of weird way and the melodies were just fantastic.

    • Elton: (on Laura Nyro) She influenced more songwriters that came out … and successful songwriters, than probably any other songwriter. Because, before her, and this is a program that, you know, I want to eulogize these people because if you don't know who they are, you've gotta go and discover them. They're just brilliant. They're like going into an old church in Venice an seeing (a) wonderful ,um … Varanasi painting, or something like that. This is music so far ahead of its time that still sounds, when you play it on whatever system you have, still sounds unbelievable. The soul, the passion, the … just the out and out audacity of her, the way … her rhythmic and melody changes come was like nothing I'd ever heard before.

    • Elton: (on Patti LaBelle and other R & B stars) I learned so much for my later-day experience with stagecraft and how to, you know, perform a song, how to talk to an audience. How to work hard … It was fantastic to work with her, because it just … these people were so professional. They were incredibly professional. They came over for a pittance but they … the adulation they received in Britain. They were famous in Britain, people loved them.
      Elvis: There was a harsher reality behind the fact that you got to play with them, surely enough. They were sent over and you got the opportunity to perform with them because they were sent over without the accompanying musicians who had played on their records.
      Elton: Oh, yeah, they couldn't afford that.
      Elvis: So was it a little bit of a shock to find that these people that you had, maybe in your mind, as stars, because these were the records that you loved, were actually struggling in their own way the way that you had just been struggling?
      Elton: Yeah, I couldn't believe, you know, they came over with, like, four sets of clothes, all the sheet music …

    • Elton: I remember going to pick Martha and the Vandellas up from London Airport - they were coming over for a tour, and by that time I'd made it as Elton John. And I went there in my Aston Martin, which …it's quite small … and they all crammed into the car, all four of them, and they had to borrow money to get their clothes out of the cleaners to come over. And I just … it astounded me that these people, who were my idols, were basically getting ripped off. It opened my eyes so much that … these people who, you know, were the stars, big stars of R & B, had to borrow money to get their clothes out to come to England to play with a pickup band. Shocking.

    • Elvis: You and I share something in that we both adopted a new identity to get started, and I know that it helped me sort of start again with songwriting. I had a group of songs and then I found the way I was thinking and the way I looked and the way I was named all fitted together. But it took me a while to work out whether this new identity was supposed to be a suit of armor or this sort of superman suit that I got into in a telephone box and sort of emerged out of. Did you ever think about whether you could go back?
      Elton: I was so happy to change my name. I mean, I was christened 'Reginald Kenneth Dwight'. Now, Reggie isn't such a bad name in America, but in England … I mean, I played with a guy called Long John Baldry, who's a legendary English blues singer, for a long time, and every time I would travel in the van with him, he'd drop me off at home at about four o'clock in the morning and go "Reggie!"
      Elvis: I think that would probably do it.
      Elton: Yeah. And also, you know, that if you're gonna make a record, 'Reg Dwight' is not gonna make it, I'm sorry. It's just not gonna make it. It's like 'Randy Vanwarmer', remember him?

    • Elton: I did enjoy becoming Elton. And I still get people calling out "Reggie" from the audience and I just, I go (groans). I just hate it, I'm Elton.
      Elvis: I think you're entitled by now to be seen …
      Elvis: Even my mum can call me Elton.

    • Elton: But why Elvis?
      Elvis: That was really just picked out of the …picked up by my manager who just thought this is … you know, if you think about the year that I began making records, it was 1977 - you had 'Captain Sensible' … 'Johnny Rotten', 'Sid Vicious', 'Rat Scabies'. I think I did … I got off quite lightly. (Elton laughingly agrees) Really, it could have been much worse. Imagine if, to be sitting up here …
      Elton: But you made a wise choice. I mean, 'Declan MacManus', people would be thinking…
      Elvis: Impossible to say, but expecting a guy in a cable-knit sweater singing whaling songs.

    • Elton: I just loved the fact that I didn't have to write the lyrics because I'm not any good at it. People have always said, 'Elton, you're very verbose, you're very intelligent, you can have a good conversation with someone, why don't you write the lyrics?" You know, I've tried a couple of times and it just isn't within me. I mean, I'm good at writing melodies. Bernie is great at writing lyrics. And I loved … I've never lost the excitement of seeing a new lyric, like 'Your Song'. Going into my parents living room …writing it and then bringing Bernie into the room and saying "Here it is, I've memorized it, here's the song". That's the way it's always been since then … Even though we were living in the same place, there was never any collaboration at all, writing the songs. We've never been in the same room ever, writing a song. He would probably kill me, I would probably kill him.

    • Elton: (on Bernie's lyrics) When I came out the closet and said I was gay, you know, that was when the she's started drying up.

    • Elton: I just want to talk about the quality of things, and the quality of things in the era we're talking about … in popular music in the '60's and '70's, was so much better than it is today. People were genuine performers. People went out there and learnt. You know, you didn't get a record contract until you'd actually played live. There were 10 or 11 records you could have bought every week that were great records.

    • Elton: This is the boy who started off in Mills Music in Denmark Street, not knowing what's gonna happen. And I became that, and it all happened by accident. But having Ray Charles sing your song … is like … I'm not a snob. Anyone records my song, I like it. William Hung did two of my songs. And I was thrilled.

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